It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. (Luke 17:2)
The millstones mentioned in the Bible refer to stones used to grind grain into flour. In this Luke passage Jesus is probably referring the large, round stones which were perhaps three feet in diameter and six to eight inches thick. These had a hole in the middle where an animal – likely a donkey or camel – was hitched to the stone to pull it around inside a stone enclosure containing the grain. Milling was hard, exhausting work. Daily life for most people in Bible times included the constant challenge to find or grow and then process sufficient food for the family.
Obtaining adequate food is a major concern for many people today as well. In their desperation some fall victim to human predators — people who see desperate people and see in them a chance to make money from their misery. Human trafficking is a major, global problem. Unscrupulous people prey on a parent’s desperation. Parents living in abject poverty are duped into letting one child go with promises of an education and better life for the child. Additionally, the parents are offered money to better provide for their other children.
The child whose family was tricked into letting him or her leave gets an education no child should ever get. They are sold or leased by the hour for sexual gratification, after being drugged and beaten into submission. Or they are sold into slavery as cheap household help.
Sometimes a child or young person ends up the victim of trafficking because the drug or drunk demented adults who are supposed to care for them need more money for their addiction. Sometimes the trafficking victim ran away to escape violence and abuse at home only to fall into the hands of someone else who will abuse them for profit.
There are three approaches to addressing to the horrors of human trafficking, and each is a crucial part of reducing this scourge:
- Find and rescue the victims and then provide long term assistance to help them recover from the trauma they’ve experienced.
- Find and prosecute those who victimize others in this way – both by making a profit off the victims and buying the “services” sold by the traffickers.
- Educate the public and those whose positions in the community put them in a position to identify and rescue victims and/or find and prosecute the abusers and users.
I was recently asked to do a workshop for the board of directors for Houston-based non-profit United Against Human Trafficking. They focus on the educational part of this equation. They work with personnel in law enforcement, health and human resources, social work, and legal systems to make them aware of the issues. Their goal is to equip them to prevent potential victims being coerced and conned into human trafficking situations. As one board member put it, “We want to address the problem upstream before more people are hurt.”
As I met with the board members their conversation evolved to discussing how much information about staff and board members should be made public via the internet. Their mission includes puts them at risk for crossing paths with those who profit from human trafficking. Human traffickers don’t appreciate anyone disrupting their revenue sources. Sometimes the risks are are large as those who prey on others for profit are violent and vicious. For that reason I am not revealing here the identity here of those with whom I met.
Rather, I urge you to read up on this tragic offense against innocent and desperate people. Jesus confronted the brutality and inhumanity of his era. We are called to do the same.
A variety of factors allow human trafficking to flourish: poverty and desperation among the victims; emotional voids which the users try to fill by abusing others; apathy, lack of information, fear of getting involved among the public; greed and total lack of compassion for victims among the traffickers; lack of resources among professionals and volunteers working to stop trafficking.
You can help by increasing your awareness of this issue. United Against Human Trafficking is one of many agencies addressing this issue. Check them out at www.uaht.org
. Human trafficking is a global plague. Houston, because of our city’s size and location, is one of the areas where the problem is most prevalent.
The first step in solving a problem is to know there is a problem. Houston, we have a problem. Thank you all of you who are doing something about it. May your numbers increase and may your efforts prosper.